Coming off a strong first season that ended with what could have been a show-breaking twist, the series has become sharper, funnier and smarter in its sophomore outing, at once a philosophical thought experiment and prolific purveyor of food puns. Its humor is vast, wordy and visual, and its performances, most notably from Ted Danson, are superb.
3. Big Little Lies
It had movie stars, movie director Jean-Marc Vallée and a blockbuster novel behind it, but Big Little Lies carved itself out as one of the most visually stunning and well-acted pieces of television this year and was rightfully showered with Emmys in September.
4. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
The Fox sitcom has long been willing to throw out its formula, but this year it went a step further by having two of its characters wrongfully incarcerated. That the series kept its peppy tone, sharp commentary and joke density in such a different environment is a testament to its actors and writers.
The second season of Issa Rae’s sitcom managed to improve on a wildly successful first, letting its lead character explore her life outside of a relationship and digging deeper into the people around her. The season’s standout is Yvonne Orji as Molly, whose bumpy journey of self-discovery was a thrill to watch unfold.
6. BoJack Horseman
The most melancholic and profound series about a cartoon horse you’ll ever watch, Netflix’s Hollywood satire found room for lightness in its fourth season. It matched its absurd humor and biting social satire (a gun control-themed episode is particularly memorable) with delicate character work.
7. One Day at a Time
This perhaps overlooked gem made its debut on Netflix back in January, but it started the TV year on strong footing. One of the few examples of a remake done right, this update on Norman Lear’s classic 1970s sitcom is an absolute delight.
8. The Handmaid’s Tale
Margaret Atwood’s seminal feminist work came alive on Hulu this year and turned into a phenomenon, inspiring memes, political protests and Halloween costumes. But in all the hubbub, it’s easy to forget that the Emmy-winning series was deep and visually rewarding. It stretched itself at times but was always grounded in Elisabeth Moss’ sumptuous leading performance.
9. Jane the Virgin
Tackling its comedy and tragedy with equal verve, Jane the Virgin upended itself earlier this year by killing off Jane’s (Gina Rodriguez) husband Michael (Brett Dier) and jumping three years into the future, a gamble that absolutely paid off.
10. Game of Thrones
Beautiful, epic and occasionally maddening,Game of Thrones’ Season 7 worked when it rose above its own phenomenon and gave its great actors great work to do and focused on the details. It wasn’t the best season of the series, but it was its most ambitious.
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